Web Hosting is the lifeblood of the websites we run. It influences so many things, from the types of features we intend to use to how well our sites perform. Yet so many times we sign up for plans only to discover that things aren’t always what they seem.
This is especially so for shared hosting plans. Among all options available, users of shared hosting plans are the most vulnerable. The reason for this is simply a lack of transparency in how much resources each account can really access.
In a shared server scenario, hosting providers are responsible for selling, allocating, and managing sub-divided server spaces. This means that all resources on each server are split – not always equally.
One Key Reason for this is Overselling
Overselling is a concept that ethically is a bit off, but unfortunately happens all too often in the hosting world.
When you purchase hosting services on a shared server configuration, you are allocated a specific amount of disk space, RAM, bandwidth, and other resources. Unfortunately, because of the environment, this isn’t always a fair distribution.
The reason why is that most if not all shared hosting service providers work on averages. They know that not all accounts will use all the resources allocated, Because of this, there is a general tendency to ‘oversell’ servers.
This means that by working on average resource usage scenarios, the providers can pack shared accounts into servers like sardines. After all, some of them will be dormant or use only a fraction of what was allocated to them.
Using this method, they are able to buffer up earnings and gain as much as possible on their investment in servers and technology. ‘Overselling’ hosts are those which sell more ‘resources’ than a server typically is equipped to handle.
For those who are looking for names – here are some overselling hosts that I have reviewed in the past – iPage, BlueHost, Hostgator, Hostinger, SiteGround, and TMD Hosting.
Also read – Best hosting for small businesses
Overselling can be Considered a Necessary Evil
Yes, it sounds a bit wrong and can lead to many questions being asked at times.
However, from a business and utility standpoint, it does make a certain amount of sense. Personally, I wouldn’t call overselling in web hosting pure evil. In some cases, it really doesn’t make sense to have server resources idle.
Take for example the case of HostGator. When they first started offering unlimited hosting, this is what Brent (ex-CEO, HostGator) said:
I wanted to call the plans unlimited last time around. However, due to staffing constraints, we wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the expected growth. A year later, we are finally OVERSTAFFED and ready to change the plan. Up until now, I’ve been slowing sales down on purpose in order for our support to catch up. If history repeats itself, renaming the plan from essentially unlimited to actually “unlimited” will increase our sales by at least 30%.
In the last year, we have been spending more money on recruiting employees than we have on advertising! It has taken us years of hiring and training to get us to the point where we are now. We’ve gone from begging employees to work overtime to asking who wants to go home. HostGator will always have the occasional scheduling gap, but for now, we’re sending over a dozen employees home a day.
– Brent Oxley, All you can eat hosting
And, in truth, the practice doesn’t benefit just the web host provider – it also benefits clients in a more roundabout way. The reality is this – the more a host is able to save, the more they will have to invest in critical updates and other benefits for their users.
Aside from that, lower operating costs can also be passed on directly to users in the way of reduced plan prices. It’s a symbiotic relationship, really. This of course is assuming that the hosts who do this are equipped to handle things if something goes wrong.
If not, things might turn out to be a disaster…
I spoke to Nikola of AltusHost (a no-overselling host) when I was drafting this post:
In those days the web hosting market was really overloaded with various types of offers.
Offering Unlimited web hosting or doing overselling of your resources was a desperate move in order to increase sales and get better ROI. But it’s a blade with two sides and companies who base their business model on this should be very careful.
Shared Hosting providers offer “Unlimited” web hosting packages in order to attract buyers. For small website owners, the feeling of (being on an) unlimited plan is great.
However, if they host some bigger websites, they will very soon figure out that “unlimited” hosting is actually very limited by many parameters. This leads to an increased risk of having very angry clients. Because at the start you promised them “unlimited” and now you trying to impose limits by the small print in your Terms of Services which they didn’t bother to read :)”
The majority of the time, overselling doesn’t cause any issues – in fact, most of the time, you’re never any the wiser.
Sometimes though – just sometimes – there are exceptions. This usually comes about when web hosting companies get too greedy and overboard. They might oversell to extremes, resulting in frequent server outages, dead slow load times – in all, a complete nightmare for all involved.
Just imagine if you went to your friend's party and there were 50 people in the house with one bathroom. How can that bathroom handle that sort of load over (say) five hours of heavy eating and drinking?
What if there are two or more people who have to pee at the same time? The more people you pack into that single-restroom party, the higher the chance that something unfortunate is going to happen.
No Overselling Host – Your Options
As mentioned, overselling isn’t “the devil” by any means – it even has its perks – however, if you are dead-set on working only with web hosting providers who do not carry out this practice, we have options for you.
There are numerous, quality web hosts that provide a variety of shared server hosting options for budget-friendly prices. Below please find a list of such providers that provide their services with a no-overselling guarantee.
ScalaHosting is an experienced host based out of the US. It has been in the business for over a decade now. One of the most distinct things about this host is their innovation in technology.
They are one of the only web hosts to have the vision in developing their own Web Hosting Control Panel, SPanel, as an alternative to cPanel. Along with that comes other vital features such as real-time cyber security with SShield and the SWordpress WordPress Management tool.
ScalaHosting also keeps their price increases to a minimum, especially where their VPS plans are concerned. In any case, for what you’re getting, the price is more than justified.
Find out more about ScalaHosting in our review.
A well-rounded hosting option, AltusHost has been around since 2008. With numerous hosting configurations available and shared server plans as low as $4.95 per month, it operates numerous Tier 3 or higher data centers throughout Europe and is headquartered in the Netherlands.
This host however is more noted for its VPS hosting solutions, which is something else to consider. If you really want to avoid overselling, then VPS is definitely something you can look into for the future.
More details in our comprehensive Altushost review.
3. Rose Hosting
This St. Louis, Missouri-based hosting provider takes pride in being the original Linux host with Linux virtual servers dating back to 2001. With US-based support services and no overselling, there are many reasons this is a great pick – not least of which includes its budget-friendly shared hosting plans that start as low as $3.95 per month.
RoseHosting founder talked about overselling in our recent interview.
According to him, “overselling is pure evil, plain and simple – we’ve avoided it since day one and will continue to do so. Our plans might not be the cheapest ones on the market – and, frankly, we don’t want them to be – but in return, you get exactly what you are paying for and more… but never less.”
Read more about RoseHosting review here.
One of the elite among WordPress-centric web hosts, Kinsta doesn’t come cheap. Having said that, they also don’t slash prices only to charge a fortune later on. Their pricing system is transparent and reasonable.
If you’re looking to sign up with them on a monthly basis, you’ll be paying full price on your plans. However, for those who opt to pay annually, Kisnta gives a good deal of shaving two months off the price as a bonus.
This is one host which has excellent performance and reputation. Combined with their strong feature set and fixed pricing it is a good choice. The best part is that there won’t be the surprise of a sudden price hike at the end of a sign-up honeymoon period.
More about Kinsta in our review.
5. Digital Ocean
This pure cloud infrastructure service provider offers scalable resources in the most exact way possible. Here you will need to select the exact resources you want to use – each of which come with very specific costs to operate depending on scale.
Because of this, it can be incredibly steady to manage for websites that are able to estimate their resource needs. Cost of operations can be very exact and best of all, it’s all scalable on demand since it’s the Cloud.
Digital Ocean is highly reliable and has a strong infrastructure network around the world. Despite that, pricing here is highly competitive.
WHSR receive referral fees from some hosting companies mentioned in this page. Our opinions are based on real experience and actual server data. Please read our review policy page to understand how our host review and rating system works.